"Too late, too late!" she said, waving her hand in the impatience of a person whose tortures cause every instant to seem an hour. "Don't come close to me, Angel! No — you must not. Keep away."
"But don't you love me, my dear wife, because I have been so pulled down by illness? You are not so fickle — I am come on purpose for you — my mother and father will welcome you now!"
"Yes — O, yes, yes! But I say, I say it is too late."
She seemed to feel like a fugitive in a dream, who tries to move away, but cannot. "Don't you know all — don't you know it? Yet how do you come here if you do not know?"
"I inquired here and there, and I found the way."
"I waited and waited for you," she went on, her tones suddenly resuming their old fluty pathos. "But you did not come! And I wrote to you, and you did not come! He kept on saying you would never come any more, and that I was a foolish woman. He was very kind to me, and to mother, and to all of us after father's death. He — "
"I don't understand."
"He has won me back to him."
Clare looked at her keenly, then, gathering her meaning, flagged like one plague-stricken, and his glance sank; it fell on her hands, which, once rosy, were now white and more delicate.
She continued —
"He is upstairs. I hate him now, because he told me a lie — that you would not come again; and you HAVE come! These clothes are what he's put upon me: I didn't care what he did wi' me! But — will you go away, Angel, please, and never come any more?"
They stood fixed, their baffled hearts looking out of their eyes with a joylessness pitiful to see. Both seemed to implore something to shelter them from reality.
"Ah — it is my fault!" said Clare.
But he could not get on. Speech was as inexpressive as silence. But he had a vague consciousness of one thing, though it was not clear to him till later; that his original Tess had spiritually ceased to recognize the body before him as hers — allowing it to drift, like a corpse upon the current, in a direction dissociated from its living will.
A few instants passed, and he found that Tess was gone. His face grew colder and more shrunken as he stood concentrated on the moment, and a minute or two after, he found himself in the street, walking along he did not know whither.